Posts Tagged ‘Abraham Maslow’

A friend of mine recently sent me a text about the connection between eating disordered behaviors and the lack of giving or receiving love. It got the wheels in my head turning and I had too much to say to respond via text. I decided instead to send an email with my thoughts. After re-reading my response, I decided to share a more fleshed-out version with the rest of you as it’s a topic that could be good for all of us to consider…

Heart“American psychologist Abraham Maslow created a hierarchy of needs based on his understanding of what motivates people. He postulated that when needs go unmet, the desire grows. Motivation then increases as the person aims to get the needs met.

Within the category of social needs, Maslow places love. When we don’t experience love, we long for it. We want to know we’re the apple of someone’s eye; to know that we’re cared for unconditionally. Without this, we can convince ourselves we’re not worthy of ever being loved and therefore hold love back from others.

This is where an eating disorder (ED) can enter the picture. Those with EDs may aim to get needs met through the behaviors they use. EDs are often about what the person is not saying…rather, they act out thoughts and feelings via restricting, binging, purging, overexercising, etc. What others, and sometimes those themselves with eating disorders, can’t see is that they may be crying out. They may be trying to say, ‘Love me! I need you to love me. I need you to understand me.’ And they can become broken when others are not able to do this. Enter in more ED behaviors and self-defeating cognitions.

Love is complex, but it’s something we all want/need; even when we can’t or don’t admit that. We can convince ourselves we don’t need love (or belonging, or community, or security, or…), but as Maslow explains, that’s not necessarily true. We’re motivated by such a need. It’s not a matter of ‘Eh, that’s not something I’m really interested in.’ We NEED love.

Because people in our lives are just that – PEOPLE — sometimes they don’t have the ability to love us in a way that makes sense to us. They may not even be aware that their own life story has contributed to this. What we find, however, is that we can look at those people and assume they know and are holding love back purposely. We can assume that people are doing things on purpose and we’re asking ‘What is wrong with this person?’ But the bottom line is that sometimes, many times, people aren’t aware of how their actions are influencing others, nor are they always aware that others aren’t necessarily doing something wrong, but it’s perceived as such based on their own thoughts and feelings. It then FEELS wrong.

It makes a lot of sense that the lack of love contributes to the development and maintenance of an ED. The disorder can then become the thing turned to for the things that are lacking. Somehow the ED will give what is needed. This is a complexity of ED. It becomes an identity; a security blanket that wraps itself so tightly around those who have found it.

Love is something everyone needs and when that feels like it’s not there, it can be as detrimental as not having shelter, drink, sleep. At the same time, however, we can’t be so quick to assume we’re not loved at all…”


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